On June 25, Georgia innovator and entrepreneur Ross Mason visited the Gig City to share his professional and personal adventures in healthcare.

Hosted by The Company Lab and First Tennessee Bank, the GIGTANK speaker event included introductions from Robert Dooley, the dean of UTC’s School of Business; Charlie Brock, president and CEO of Launch Tennessee; and Roy Vaughn, vice president of corporate communications at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

Mason’s talk focused on lessons learned from past business experiences and how we can apply those concepts to fix what’s broken in the healthcare industry. Given Chattanooga’s unique infrastructure – most notably, our one-gigabit-per-second Internet speeds – Mason believes that our city offers a sturdy platform for groundbreaking healthcare technologies and next-generation solutions to nationwide problems.

“As I look at what you’re doing in Chattanooga, you’re so blessed to have community leaders who have thought about your future,” Mason said. “They took a lot of risk and made a big investment in creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

But that’s just the first step, he added. The next is finding a way to attract, recruit and retain future generations of innovators who can sustain that ecosystem and thrive within it.

In Georgia, Mason is furthering that purpose through his venture philanthropy, the Healthcare Institute for Neuro-Recovery and Innovation (HINRI), which provides free venture capital services to early stage non-profits. HINRI identifies technologies and systems that can improve healthcare; invests in innovative methods to serve military families affected by neuro-trauma; and bridges the implementation gap in healthcare by working with national and global partners.

“We wanted to focus on healthcare,” Mason explained. “So we said, ‘How do we solve this problem with unique solutions?’ With HINRI, we based it on a business model.”

Among its many achievements, HINRI has supported the creation of a clinic network that provides free medical care, helped create a digital platform that addresses autism, and funded events that raise money for military veteran retreats focused on suicide prevention.

“The most powerful words in the English language are ‘what can I do to help.’ If you have a community where you’re paying it forward, this is where innovators are going to want to be,” Mason said.

Mason’s words were particularly meaningful to several of our GIGTANK teams who are building businesses in the healthcare space.

Harrison Tyner is the president of WeCounsel Solutions, an online platform that enables mental health providers to engage with clients remotely, using aggregate features that maximize interaction.

“Ross is extremely knowledgeable about the current state of healthcare in the Southeast,” said Harrison. “His story shows that if you develop the right atmosphere and the right values, everything will come together – in terms of building successful businesses as well as improving the lives of others.”

Shayne Woods, president of FwdHealth, had the opportunity to discuss his startup with Ross one-on-one and received some valuable feedback. FwdHealth provides a goal-centric user interface for a wide range of health and wellness apps, which allows users to share information and receive support and rewards for healthy living.

“Ross’s ideas about being disruptive really struck a chord with me. We can’t keep doing more of the same because that’s not going to solve the problem,” Woods said. “We need to look at technologies more strategically, be open to new ideas and start thinking about healthcare in a different way.”